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You’re Welcome! Things That Make U.S Customer Service Awesome.

TJ's two
On this day at Trader Joe’s, there was a queue to get into the supermarket! But everyone loves the savings and the service.

One of the reasons for our love affair with the U.S, and New York in particular, is it’s excellent and unique customer service.
Customer service in New Zealand (where we come from) is average and improving but it has some way to go to come up to U.S standards.
Here are the things that impress us that U.S residents perhaps take for granted.

1. Kate bought some Tofurky sausages from Trader Joe’s and didn’t like them. It turned out not to be a problem. As well as having the usual policy of returning a defective product for your money back, TJ’s also allows you to return any product because you just don’t like it. The latter doesn’t happen in N.Z.

2. In New Zealand shops if a sale ticket advertises a bulk purchase deal e.g 3 items for $6, you have to buy all 3 items to get the deal. In the U.S the same sales ticket indicates that you can buy 1 item for $2, 2 items for $4 or 3 items for the $6. I’m still getting used to this but it’s great.

3. U.S customer service people always respond to being thanked with “You’re welcome”. This doesn’t happen in most countries.

4. In some N.Z supermarkets we don’t have paper bags (did many years ago)and we get charged for each plastic bag we use to pack our groceries. It’s only 5 or 10 cents, and it’s ostensibly to encourage you to bring your own bags which is a good thing, but it’s irritating. In the U.S supermarkets we get offered a choice between paper or plastic bags, and Wholefoods gives customers a small discount for bringing our own bags. I prefer this positive rather than negative incentive to be greener.

5. Speaking of bags, we always bring a small cooler bag when we go grocery shopping. U.S check-out operators are friendly and happy to packed our chilled items into the cooler bag with no fuss. In NZ they might do it for you but you’d probably get a funny look first.

6. The queues are generally a lot longer in U.S supermarkets than in NZ. However shops like Wholefoods and Trader Joe’s have what I’ll call
“line expeditors” that make sure you get through the queue as efficiently as possible.

7. Can you tell we are fans of Trader Joe’s and Wholefoods? Another service that I appreciate is the dedicated staff member that goes up and down the queue asking if there is anything you have forgotten that they can go and get for you. Very helpful and helps efficiency of the shop.

TJ's one
The sign in TJ’s says “Chill”. The two queue lines extend right around the interior of the supermarket but despite this everyone keeps their cool.

8. Lots of free samples to try. This happens a little in NZ but is much more common in the US. I think it is quite an effective form of advertising for them and I love trying treat eats, especially when my blood sugar is running low.

9. It’s little thing like the “straps” they put on bulk packages of toilet paper at Target so you can carry it easily like a bag. We don’t have that in NZ yet.

2 Comments


  1. //

    Hi @ 30’s Traveler
    I so wish I went to Trader Joe’s on my recent trip to the US as I love great service and Whole foods!! I was quite shocked and appalled by the bad service I got from shop clerks and people working in stores, hotels, Bus Terminals and airports around the US. Service in restaurants was excellent, but this comes with a price, a big tip!

    I’m from South Africa and in the hospitality/service industry myself and are pretty strict and observant about customer service,so it was not a great experience at all for me to see the level of service and how rude people are with customers around the US.

    You would love SA if you like those small special things and extras in service like you mentioned in your blog and great value for money!

    Hendrik @Earthstompers


  2. //

    While I do agree that customer service in the United States tends to be better than at other places (like in Europe, for example), I cannot help but think that your sampling size when it comes to supermarkets is a little skewed, particularly, towards the high-end and specialty supermarket.

    See, I don’t think the average American goes to Whole Foods or Trader Joes to shop on a regular basis. Having lived in Buffalo, NY for 7 years, I think that the price range of the food items in the two stores you mentioned are higher on average than the other supermarkets that are available. I always get reminded of this fact whenever I visit the Whole Foods branch on Columbus Circle whenever I visit my sister who lives in NYC.

    So what am I getting at here? Perhaps the reason why you experienced a heightened amount of customer service is because these are high-end supermarkets, and you’re experiencing customer service because you’re actually paying for it, albeit indirectly. If you shop at more typical supermarkets like Kroger in Ohio or Giant Eagle in Pennsylvania, then I highly doubt you would experience the customer service you described. Even Wegman’s, the local supermarket chain that I have come to love while living in Western New York doesn’t have queue attendants asking you if you forgot anything that they could go fetch.

    Bottomline, I wonder what the difference on customer service is, once you equalize all other confounding factors.

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